A Pollution Prevention Guide for the Dry Cleaning Industry
Three Rs for the 90s: Reduce Reuse Recycle
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
The Dry Cleaning Industry
Dry cleaning establishments -- those facilities that are in the business of cleaning textiles in a non-aqueous liquid media -- produce a variety of wastes, including the following:
Most dry cleaning establishments produce hazardous waste because of the nature of the solvents used in the cleaning process. The volume of hazardous waste produced often places these facilities in the category of “small quantity generator”. Treating or disposing of this waste constitutes a significant cost to the business. Even nonhazardous wastes must be properly managed, often at considerable expense, to avoid damage to the environment or public health.
- spent solvent
- empty solvent containers
- spent filter cartridges
- cooked powder residue
- still residues from solvent distillation
- water contaminated with cleaning solvent
Whatever the nature and characteristics of the waste may be, it all has one thing in common:All waste represents loss of resources and loss of money.
The most effective way to minimize the losses associated with waste is to avoid producing the waste in the first place. This is the concept behind DNREC’s Pollution Prevention Program, which has produced this Fact Sheet to assist you and others in the dry cleaning business to reduce your losses while at the same time helping to improve the environment.
Businesses throughout the country have implemented waste reduction programs and found that there are many benefits to be gained from such an approach to the management of resources. Reducing the amount of waste your business generates can help you:
- reduce operating costs
- reduce waste disposal costs
- reduce long-term liability
- help sustain environmental quality
- improve workplace safety and health
- project a positive public image
Getting off to a good start is crucial to the success of any endeavor. Here are some important things to consider in undertaking a waste reduction program:
- Make a commitment to waste reduction. This commitment must start at the top, with the owner or manager of the shop, and extend to every employee.
- Involve the employees in designing and implementing waste reduction measures.
- Provide training in waste reduction techniques and practices. Don’t let this be a one-shot effort -- periodic “refresher courses” will help to increase employees’ awareness of the importance of waste reduction.
- Establish incentives to encourage workers to use waste reduction techniques and to suggest changes in design or operating procedures that would further reduce waste generation.
- Assess the shop’s waste. Identify sources, types and amounts of waste being produced. This will make it easier to pinpoint areas where waste reduction techniques can be applied and to measure the success of your efforts.
Reducing Solvent Waste
Dry cleaning facilities typically use one of three cleaning solvents: perchloroethylene (commonly called “perc”), petroleum solvents (such as Stoddard, quick-dry, or low-odor), or Valclene (also known as fluorocarbon 113 or trichlorotrifluoroethane). In most cases, these solvents are classified as hazardous waste when disposed of and therefore require expensive treatment and/or disposal. Dry Cleaners may be able to reduce the quantity of solvent waste they produce by extending solvent life, increasing solvent efficiency, and recovering spent solvent. Many techniques for accomplishing the reduction of solvent waste fall under two general categories:
- improved housekeeping and
- modifications to processes, equipment, and operating practices.
|Typical Quantities of Hazardous Waste From Dry Cleaning|
(Pounds of waste per 1,000 pounds of clothes cleaner)
|Waste Type||Cleaning Method|
|Average Quantity of Hazardous Waste (pounds)|
|Spent Cartridge Filters: Standard (Carbon Core)||20||15||-|
|Spent Cartridge Filters: Adsorptive (split)||30||20||-|
|Cooked Powder Residue||40||NA||NA|
|Drained Filter Muck||NA||NA||NA|
Improving Housekeeping Practices.
This is often the easiest, quickest, and least expensive way to reduce waste. Good housekeeping includes effective inventory control and efficient operating procedures, such as the following:
- Keep storage and work areas clean and well organized, and keep all containers properly labeled.
- Inspect materials upon delivery, and immediately return unacceptable materials to the supplier.
- Monitor equipment efficiency (e.g., pounds of clothes cleaned per drum of solvent) on a regular basis in order to detect the occurrence of leaks or other problems that may result in unnecessary loss of solvent.
- Check hoses, couplings, pumps, valves, and gaskets frequently in order to detect leaks. Make repairs promptly.
- Keep all containers covered to prevent evaporation and spillage.
- Provide secondary containment in areas where solvents are stored.
- Keep waste streams separate to increase their potential for reuse, recycling, or treatment. Don’t allow nonhazardous materials to become contaminated with hazardous materials, as this will result in all of the waste needing to be treated as hazardous waste.
- Clean lint screens regularly to avoid clogging of fans and condensers.
Modifying processes, equipment, and operating practices.
Sometimes even minor changes can result in a significant reduction in the toxicity and/or quantity of waste being generated, at little expense to the business. More major modifications may be economically feasible when all savings, such as avoided disposal costs and avoided liability, are taken into consideration. Here are some possible modifications you may want to consider:
- Size garment loads correctly. Overloading reduces the effectiveness of solvent recovery equipment; underloading makes less efficient use of solvent.
- Use spigots and pumps when dispensing new materials and funnels when transferring wastes to storage containers to reduce the possibilities of spills.
- Modify processes and equipment to reduce solvent vapor loss or to recover solvents for reuse. Add-on carbon adsorption or refrigeration units can recover valuable solvent. Equipment can also be modified to enhance heat and water conservation.
- Extract solvents from filters as thoroughly as possible. Gravity drainage and “cooking” are commonly used techniques.
- Use on-site recovery techniques to make solvents reusable. Distillation is a commonly used method of on-site recovery.
- If the solvents cannot be made reusable, try to find a way to recycle them. One possibility for accomplishing this is to purchase solvents from a company that will pick up and recycle the spent solvent.
Handling Other Wastes
Waste reduction applies to all waste generated, not just regulated hazardous waste. In developing a waste reduction program, don’t forget to include the nonhazardous wastes being produced within the shop. Every waste is a potential candidate for reduction, reuse, or recycling. For example:
Replace disposable items with reusable ones.
Dry cleaners in some states are participating in an innovative program that reduces the need for plastic wrap. Customers can buy reusable nylon bags and use them to hold and transport their dirty clothes. After being cleaned, the clothes are hung on hangers and covered with the nylon bag rather than plastic wrap.
Reuse items as many times as possible before recycling or disposing of them.
- Use both sides of a piece of paper by making double-sided copies, or by using the blank side as scratch paper.
- Encourage customers to bring back hangers that they don’t need.
Recycle everything you can.
Glass, plastic, and metal containers are recyclable in the Recycle Delaware program. So are newspapers, magazines, and telephone books. Other materials, such as office paper, cardboard, and noncontainer plastic and aluminum, are accepted by private recyclers.
SIDEBAR: Dry cleaning and laundry plants that might generate hazardous waste and be subject to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requirements covering the generation, transportation, and management of hazardous waste include:
- Retail dry cleaning stores
- Industrial and linen supply plants with dry cleaning operations
- Leather and fur cleaning plants
- Self service laundromats with dry cleaning equipment
- Other facilities with dry cleaning operations
As long as wastes are being produced, there is the potential for waste reduction. Less-polluting materials, equipment, and procedures are constantly being developed, so that wastes that are difficult or costly to control today may be easily eliminated tomorrow. Stay alert for such developments.
- When buying new equipment, look for equipment that will minimize both the amount of toxic materials used and the amount of waste produced. Dry-to-dry machines eliminate the transfer from wash unit to drying unit, thereby reducing both solvent loss and worker exposure.
- Reassess the shop’s operations and waste handling practices periodically. A successful program requires diligence so as to avoid the temptation of slipping back into old, more wasteful ways of doing things and to identify additional waste reduction possibilities.
- Publicize the shop’s commitment to waste reduction. Customers will feel good about doing business with a company that is environmentally responsible.
Sources of Additional Help
This Fact Sheet is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all of the techniques that could be used to reduce waste in a dry cleaning establishment. As each shop is unique, with its own combination of wastes and its own individual way of doing business, so will each waste reduction program be different from all others. A number of resources are available to help you develop and implement a program that will meet your shop’s individual needs:
This publication is one of a series of pollution prevention guides for various types of businesses. For more information on this and other pollution prevention or waste minimization programs, contact the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control at 739-3822 or 739-6400.
- The Northeast Industrial Waste Exchange may, be able to help you find companies that can use your wastes. You can call the Exchange directly at (315) 422-6512.
- The Delaware Manufacturing Alliance is a private, non-profit corporation which is dedicated to improving the quality, productivity, and profitability of Delaware manufacturers, and to serving as a prime service resource for the state’s new and existing manufacturers. The DMA can be reached at (302) 452-2520.
- The International Fabricare Institute (IFI) and other trade associations may be able to provide additional helpful information to member dry cleaners interested in reducing their wastes and costs. The IFI, located in Silver Spring, Maryland, can be reached by calling (301) 622-1900.
- The RCRA/Superfund Hotline offers assistance with hazardous waste questions, as well as publications and other information pertaining to waste minimization. Call toll free at 800-424-9346.
- The Delaware Pollution Prevention Program in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (302) 739-3822 provides technical assistance, information resources, as well as assistance with other services that are available to your business.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is an equal opportunity employer. No person or group shall be excluded from participation, denied any benefits, or subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, or handicap.
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Last Updated: December 20, 1996